Tag: #DAM

On “Jogging” and Gold Stars

On “Jogging” and Gold Stars

March 3rd marked the third anniversary of a condo fire that burned up every last thing we ever owned. It was made worse because we’d just moved to Dallas ten days prior to The Fire and didn’t know where anything was or how to get there. Being upended was disconcerting and weird, and time was distorted into feeling endless (why is it still March?) and evaporative (how is it 4pm already?) at the same time. Most of us have this feeling in our current Coronavirus lockdown. I wrote a book about dealing with being upended and uncomfortable. It might help you, as it’s often funny, a guideline to getting to the other side of a bad bit. Plus yum comfort food recipes, so you really can’t go wrong.*

Being isolated and having people-oriented activities curtailed isn’t particularly hard for me yet, except for one thing which I’ll get to in a minute. I like being by myself. In fancy-shmancy terms, I’d raise my hand and qualify as an extroverted introvert. I like people on average, and can handle large crowds if necessary, but must return to solitude to recharge. Recharge in this example means that if I don’t get peace and quiet, I may rip your head off after first removing your arms and legs as you lie pinned like a hapless butterfly, thanks. I chalk these violent tendencies that crop up when too long in the company of others to being both an only child and cats-eye-glasses-wearing/teacher’s pet unpopular for my first 16 years or so on the planet.

The one thing I truly miss in these self-insulating times is swimming. It’s my exercise of choice, the one that helps my mind as much as my fitness level. All the pools I use are in public buildings, so that option is closed. Faced with becoming chronically cranky and doughy, I’m forced to take the only option open: “jogging.” It’s in parentheses because what I do barely qualifies as real jogging. It’s more like a shuffle where my feet barely clear the road, and involves a lot of heavy breathing. I haven’t “jogged” for a long time and was never very good at it. Plus I despise sweating. That’s probably why I like the pool, you can’t tell you’re sweating in there, you just feel all glow-y and happy when you’re done. Wet, but a different type of wet.

My first runs that weren’t part of some dumb gym class happened at the tail end of college. I worked as a server** at La Tour, a ritzy restaurant in the Park Hyatt hotel opposite the old Water Tower in Chicago. Every other Saturday we’d get a whippet-thin man in for breakfast who was a bit of an anomaly at the time – he was an ultra-distance marathoner. He’d order up sixteen large pancakes (4 regular orders), no syrup, just butter and steadily work his way through the entire stack, leaving nary a crumb. He was carb-loading, which a thing back then. I wouldn’t think it is now, but that’s what he was doing prior to the long 80 to 100-mile runs he did every other Sunday. He confided in me that he always just ate one meal a day, but at that meal he ate anything he wanted. Of course this idea inspired me. Not the running forever part, but the eat anything I want bit. I learned three core things after a steady running effort for a few months: a. 6 miles was far enough for me, b. clearly my body would never ever take on whippet-form, and c. that eating just once a day is no fun at all.

Since that time, I’ve periodically gone back to lacing up my sneakers and heading out to “jog.” It’s not pretty. While my efforts aren’t as awkward as that of a turtle upside down on its back, waving its little reptilian legs in a futile manner to right itself, hoping one of its turtle friends will hustle over and help it flip back over again, it’s close. I don’t like being sweaty either, and you have to do it early in the day, so three strikes against “jogging.” Luckily, there are more upsides to it than down.

I like being out in nature. I don’t wear headphones, so I can hear the birds singing, although there seem to be less of them than there were a few years ago. I also don’t wear my glasses, as they slip down my nose in a most annoying fashion because, you know, that sweating thing. With no glasses, everything is pleasantly indistinct, with blobs of color like an Impressionist painting. I wonder if all of them were nearsighted. It’s like having my own living blurry art gallery that I am moving ever-so-slowly through. I also like saying hello to everyone else out there slogging along, it gives me a sense of community, and I feel like I’m doing everyone a good deed being the worst one out there, and everyone can feel good about themselves in comparison.

The best bit as a recovering mean-to-myself critical person is that my self-talk through the process is unwaveringly positive. I don’t expect anything of myself other than finishing. I talk my way through each jog. “Okay now just get to the mailbox, now to that set of trees, you can do it. You can get to that crack in the sidewalk for sure! You did it! Whoo!  Okay now just to that curve in the road. You made the stop sign! Great job, I’m so proud of you.” It’s my verbal version of those gold and blue and red stars we used to get on our papers in grade school. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember these. They used to come in the licking version, and then later switched to self-sticking. I loved getting those gold stars as an affirmation of a job well done. Also the endorphin rush after you’re done lasts all day. There’s a sense of accomplishment in doing something hard, even if it was done ungracefully. I hope you’re finding ways to get yourself gold stars, perhaps trying something new or hard you’re willing to do awkwardly for a while. If you are, let me know, I find that so inspiring. Or if you need a little push to get yourself righted, I’m happy to come do that for you too.

*My book, “On Rescue Dogs and Losing Everything” is available on Amazon in kindle or paperback form. Half of all proceeds go to support animal shelters and rescues.

**you know it’s a fancy restaurant when you’re termed a “server” instead of a plain old waitress, or hash-slinger.

My first book cover!
On Transitions and Deep Ellum

On Transitions and Deep Ellum

One simply does not swim in a thunderstorm.  I got up at my normal ridiculous time of 4.30 am to go for a swim workout with my fun Dallas Area Masters group (the acronym for the group is DAM which never fails to give me a sophomoric chuckle).  As I did my morning shuffle to the kitchen (and oh dear, is this what getting old feels like?  I must start doing yoga again), I heard sound of rain pattering on the windows, and then the dull flash and crack of a thunderstorm on the way in. I was tremendously happy about this, happy to not drive on the freeway at 70 miles an hour half-awake over to SMU and strip down to a swim suit in the chilly morning air and then slide into an even more chilly outdoor 50 meter pool.  For those of you not versed in pool size, that is the great big one that Olympians use.  I hate getting wet, which is probably some sort of existential chuckle, as my self-selected lifetime sport is swimming.  I don’t mind BEING wet, it’s that transition from dry to immersed that bites. There is always a heinous moment when one either needs to commit fully and jump in and go or just say “chuck it” and do the walk of shame back to where your clothes are sitting and leave. Spared that choice, I curled on our new couch (everything in our house is new, because of The Fire – it’s exactly like living in an Extended Stay hotel – nothing has memory or meaning yet, so its pleasant but not connected to us in the slightest. All we need is some ubiquitous, bland art to put on the walls and the illusion would be complete) and opened an email from my son who is finishing up his first year in college at GWU. I got to sit with my pomegranate fizz stick and read over an essay he thoughtfully sent me from college to look over and feel momentarily relevant in his life.

My thoughts have been with my boys a lot this past week – they both flew in for a short visit but are gone again.  It was wonderful having them in the house again, to call out, “not around the neck” as they wrestled with each other, and to remind them in nearly-stern tones that we live in an apartment now, and the nice neighbors below us with a brand-new baby probably don’t appreciate full body slams reverberating through their ceiling.  It was fun showing them some places in Dallas we’ve found in our time after The Fire, especially Deep Ellum which reminds me of living off Melrose Ave in Los Angeles some 30 years ago during its gritty transitional time.  Back then, Melrose was an uneasy but vibrant mix of punk rockers with giant mohawks, and the people of the Jewish Retirement home (now replaced by trendy stores) sitting outside and watching them go by with bemused faces.  There were a few stores, some crack houses, and ethnic restaurants. You knew that while it was an okay street by day, at night you just needed to stay in your car and drive on by.  Deep Ellum is located just slightly off Downtown Dallas, and a whole section of it is underneath a massive freeway tangle. It’s not beautiful, but Deep Ellum is in that cool gritty stage Melrose sported 30 years ago. It has its share of empty buildings and shady deals going down, but there is a lot of development, tons of music venues and restaurants and a few retail stores. The neighborhood is fighting gentrification, but my suspicion is that in a few years just like Melrose it will be taken over with higher rents, trendy boutiques, and have less parking. You should go see it now.  We really liked Cane Russo and Twisted Root for eating.

During the visit, I couldn’t help but think what our life would be like if the boys had both chosen to come to Dallas and SMU for college instead of their respective schools. Would Craig and I be more involved?  I think the proximity would have lent itself to at least a few more dinners together, and perhaps a few more chances to tell them things we know. There are a lot of those, things we know but never got the space to say while they were home.  Craig and I miss them both more than we realized we would. I wonder if the year-long college process of testing, sorting and finding, applying and writing the damn essays and visiting and getting accepted and visiting again before a final verdict is rendered is an unintended Mercy for us parents.  One is so grateful to be done with it, you don’t realize your time to deeply influence your child’s life has effectively ended.  In many ways, this new phase of parenting, the hands-off phase, is even harder than the other phases that went before it.  Not that I want the teen angst phase back again, or the diaper phase, or especially the dreaded my-science-fair-project-is-due-tomorrow phase. I’m happy to have those in our rear-view mirror. It’s the seeing the boys daily that I miss.  They are changing and we only get to see end results, our time of helping them shape the men they are becoming is gone. Craig and I have been replaced by peers and professors and other cities and adventures that we may or may not hear about. This time of transition feels exactly like that tenuous moment before diving into a wet pool – I really don’t want it to be my current reality, but I do know if I hop in, immerse myself in acceptance of this change, I will feel better in the long run.  It’s just a little chilly starting out.

Image credit: Robert O’Neil